Frequently Asked Questions

What is the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan?

The California Sustainable Freight Action Plan (Action Plan) is an unprecedented effort, intended to integrate investments, policies, and programs across several State agencies to help realize a singular vision for California’s freight transport system. It provides a recommendation on a high level vision and broad direction to the Governor to consider for State agencies to utilize when developing specific investments, policies, and programs related to the freight transport system that serves our State’s transportation, environmental, and economic interests.

Why was the Action Plan developed?

The Action Plan was developed in response to Governor Brown’s Executive Order B-32-15, issued in July 2015, which directs the Secretaries of the California Transportation Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, and Natural Resources Agency to lead the California Air Resources Board, California Department of Transportation, Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, and California Energy Commission in the development of a California Sustainable Freight Action Plan.

Why is the Action Plan important?

California is the nation’s largest gateway for international trade and domestic commerce. This system is responsible for one-third of the State's economic product and jobs, with freight-dependent industries accounting for over $740 billion in gross domestic product and over 5 million jobs in 2014. However, California’s freight transport system is under pressure to serve our growing population and satisfy dynamic market demands. At the same time, freight transportation generates a high portion of local pollution in parts of the State with poor air quality. Reducing these harmful pollutants is an important local, regional, and State priority, as well as a matter of compliance with the federal Clean Air Act. California has also recently set new, aggressive targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 in order to combat climate change. Reducing emissions in the freight sector is critical to meeting these 2030 targets.

Recognizing that the freight transport system is dynamic and continuously adjusting to meet ever-changing system demands, the Action Plan is the beginning of a process, and signals State government’s interest in collaborating with industry, and environmental and community leaders on defining the actions necessary to make the vision for a sustainable freight transport system a reality.

What does the Action Plan include?

The Action Plan includes recommendations on:

  • A long-term 2050 Vision and Guiding Principles for California’s future freight transport system.
  • Targets for 2030 to guide the State toward meeting the Vision.
  • Opportunities to leverage State freight transport system investments.
  • Actions to initiate over the next five years to make progress towards the Targets and the Vision.
  • Potential pilot projects to achieve on-the-ground progress in the near-term.
  • Additional concepts for further exploration and development, if viable.

What are the Action Plan’s 2030 Targets and how will they be used?

The targets are not mandates, but rather aspirational measures of progress toward sustainability for the State to meet and try to exceed. The State agencies will measure and report progress on the statewide targets below, and will evaluate them for any necessary adjustments in 2019:

  • System Efficiency Target: Improve freight system efficiency 25 percent by increasing the value of goods and services produced from the freight sector, relative to the amount of carbon that it produces by 2030.
  • Transition to Zero Emission Technology Target: Deploy over 100,000 freight vehicles and equipment capable of zero emission operation and maximize near-zero emission freight vehicles and equipment powered by renewable energy by 2030.
  • Increased Competitiveness and Economic Targets: Establish a target or targets for increased State competitiveness and future economic growth within the freight and goods movement industry based on a suite of common-sense economic competitiveness and growth metrics and models developed by a working group comprised of economists, experts, and industry. These targets and tools will support flexibility, efficiency, investment, and best business practices through State policies and programs that create a positive environment for growing freight volumes, while working with industry to lessen immediate potential negative economic impacts. The targets and tools will also help evaluate the strategies proposed under the Action Plan to ensure consideration of the impacts of actions on economic growth and competitiveness throughout the development and implementation process.

How were the recommended actions and pilot projects determined?

The Action Plan includes State agency actions to support improvement of California’s freight transport system over the next five years, as well as concepts the State agencies will explore for future action in subsequent updates to this Action Plan. The recommended actions are the result of a new integrated approach, in which the State agencies implemented a more comprehensive look across the State’s policies, programs, and investments. The State agencies sought to identify opportunities to innovate and work together to help achieve the Action Plan Targets and incorporate actions that would simultaneously advance multiple State goals and objectives. To gather additional ideas, the State agencies also initiated multi-agency stakeholder outreach efforts.

The Action Plan also recommends further development of three freight pilot project concepts into shared investment opportunities within the next three years. These are a result of ideas submitted by local agencies, private sector entities, community partners, and the general public. Ideas were reviewed and presented for comment during public workshops held in January and February 2016. The purpose of these projects will be to demonstrate on‑the‑ground progress toward a sustainable freight transport system in the near future. Successful demonstrations will serve as launching points for much broader application with the potential to address significant barriers and yield multiple benefits to California’s freight transport system.

How was the Action Plan developed?

From July 2015 through spring 2016, the State agencies held a series of public workshops and webinars, regular meetings with the California Freight Advisory Committee, as well as numerous meetings with individuals and stakeholder groups such as industry associations, environmental and community groups, California Native American Tribes, and small businesses.

How does Action Plan relate to other freight plans the State develops?

The Action Plan is a comprehensive strategy that integrates elements from a number of existing State plans related to California’s freight transport system, including the California Freight Mobility Plan, the 2014 Integrated Energy Policy Report Update, the Sustainable Freight Pathways to Zero and Near-Zero Emissions Discussion Document, the Heavy-Duty Technology and Fuels Assessments, Safeguarding California: Implementation Action Plans Report, and others. These plans provided a foundation for the Action Plan, as well as a starting point for identifying further opportunities to accelerate change through greater coordination across existing programs, and additional actions to address system needs.

How will the plan be used?

The Action Plan’s integrated approach will serve to coordinate State agency priorities and timing on actions to influence freight transportation and energy infrastructure, vehicle and equipment technologies, and facility and operations efficiency, rather than the traditional and separate planning efforts for transportation, environment, and energy. The Action Plan is the beginning of a process, and signals State government’s interest in collaborating with stakeholders on defining the actions necessary to make the Vision for a sustainable freight transport system a reality.

What are the next steps?

Next steps for the State agencies include continued work with federal, State, industry, labor, regional, local, and environmental and community-based partners to inform, refine, and implement the strategies and actions identified in the Action Plan. The State agencies will seek to engage stakeholders through multiple forums, including: the formation of collaborative stakeholder working groups on competitiveness, system efficiency, workforce development, and regulatory and permitting process improvements; continued engagement through each State agencies’ regular planning and regulatory development processes; and through periodic updates on implementation efforts at California Freight Advisory Committee meetings.

The State agencies anticipate the following implementation milestones:

  • Late summer 2016: The State agencies will host meetings of both the competitiveness and efficiency stakeholder workgroups.
  • September 2016: The State agencies will discuss Action Plan implementation with stakeholders at a meeting of the California Freight Advisory Committee and anticipate providing additional periodic updates at future California Freight Advisory Committee meetings.
  • By January 2017: The State agencies will work on actions 1 and 2 to enact a freight transport funding package and distribute federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act funds dedicated to addressing key State and regional improvements to freight corridors in California.
  • By January 2017: Initiate work to collaborate with industry, regional and local agencies, and others on developing a statewide funding strategy to help support investments in transportation assets and advanced vehicles and equipment consistent with the long-term Vision and Guiding Principles presented in this document.
  • Early 2017: The State agencies will host a meeting of the sustainable freight think tank, which will consist of strategists working for beneficial cargo owners, freight transport and logistics providers, labor interests, as well as academic researchers and economists. They will be focused on providing expert insight on: global, national, state, and regional trends in resources, production, and consumption of goods; possible changes in supply chains and logistics, land use, technology applications, and consumer behavior; as well as other market, technology, and policy factors that will help us to better understand and anticipate changes in the demands on the freight transport system, and to accommodate those potential changes in long-term planning for infrastructure and technology investments, while pursuing the sustainability goals of the Action Plan.
  • By July 2017: The State agencies will establish work plans for the workgroups on competitiveness, system efficiency, workforce development, and regulatory and permitting process improvements. For pilot projects, the State agencies will prepare work plans for the three project concepts identifying scope, partners, timelines, and funding options.
  • By July 2018: The State agencies anticipate providing a full progress report on Action Plan efforts.
  • By 2019: The State agencies will evaluate the Action Plan targets to determine if adjustments are needed.
  • By 2019: Statute requires Caltrans to have completed an update of the 2014 California Freight Mobility Plan. The Action Plan's perspective regarding sustainability of the freight system and framework for ongoing collaborative processes will inform those efforts.

How will you balance economic impacts/environmental benefits to inform implementation of the actions moving forward?

As we move forward with implementation, the State agency actions and implementation steps will undergo in-depth analysis to estimate potential direct costs and benefits to stakeholders and impacted sectors. Estimates may include potential capital costs for equipment, and infrastructure, plus changes in operations and maintenance costs. Benefits may include improvements in efficiency, reliability, mobility, energy consumption, air quality, safety of freight operations, and healthy, livable communities.

The State agencies plan to continue developing these actions and implementation steps through separate public processes, retaining the discretion to add to, change, or commit to any of the actions and implementation steps. Subsequent implementation will be conditional on successful completion of applicable public processes, necessary financing approvals, economic competitiveness, and environmental reviews.

How is the Action Plan different from other State efforts, like the California Freight Mobility Plan?

The Action Plan is a comprehensive strategy that aligns elements from a number of existing plans, including the Freight Mobility Plan, the State Rail Plan, the California Transportation Plan, Sustainable Freight: Pathways to Zero and Near-Zero Emissions-Discussion Document, California Interregional Blueprint, California Strategic Management Plan, the Integrated Energy Policy Report, Safeguarding California: Reducing Climate Risk and others.

It is not intended to replace other planning processes and documents such as the California Freight Mobility Plan or regional goods movement plans, but rather is intended to inform those efforts moving forward by providing a new more holistic perspective regarding the sustainability of the freight system and a framework for ongoing collaborative processes.